Senior Executives Win With New Executive Order on SES Reform

Administration incorporates key SEA recommendations to new federal action.

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the Obama Administration issued an Executive Order (E.O.) aimed at strengthening and improving the Senior Executive Service (SES) by enhancing the recruitment, development and mobility of career senior executives. Following the release of early drafts, the Senior Executives Association (SEA) submitted feedback and numerous recommendations to improve the E.O., noting the draft presidential action, while promising in some respects, fell short in making the SES attractive enough to recruit and retain the highly qualified and motivated career executives needed in the federal government. SEA pointed out that the E.O. needed strengthening in the full spectrum of investments in senior executives to ensure that high achieving SES are adequately recognized and rewarded for their accomplishments and that new and current SES managers’ compensation be at least equal to or above their subordinates – thereby overcoming current pernicious pay compression that has allowed many GS-15s to earn more than their SES bosses.

The final order incorporated several key SEA recommendations, including:

• A fifty percent increase in aggregate agency spending caps for granting SES and Senior Professional (SL and ST employee) performance awards starting in FY 2017, with a pledge by the Administration to also review FY 2016 caps for possible increase
• A directive to agencies to use all available means, monetary or otherwise, for recognizing and rewarding high performers
• A directive to agencies to implement policies to ensure pay for both new and existing SES and Senior Professional executives exceeds that of their supervisee GS employees

Many items contained in the order are to be executed through phased implementation, which will carry from the current administration into the next.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said SEA Interim President Tim Dirks. “While we still have some concerns – most notably that the Administration has not yet addressed agency funding for the reform initiatives – we hope these issues will be addressed in the Administration’s budget request to Congress and/or E.O. implementing guidance. When designing new programs, it is imperative that we account for the needs and resources required for their success. The reforms contained in the E.O. hold the potential to improve the development and operation of the career senior executive and professional workforce to more effectively serve the American public. We look forward to working with this Administration and the next on implementing, assessing, and improving these initiatives.”

Additionally unveiled yesterday were the winners of the Presidential Rank Awards, with this year’s number of recipients significantly exceeding last year’s. SEA will honor the awardees this coming spring at its annual Rank Awards Banquet.

Dirks further commented, “As this new Executive Order seeks to strengthen the future career executive workforce, we are also pleased to see the Administration acknowledge and recognize so many current career SES and Senior Professional employees for their extraordinary achievements and innovations that support our nation. SEA looks forward to working with the Administration and agencies across the government to honor these truly exemplary individuals.”

The Senior Executives Association (SEA) is a professional association representing Senior Executive Service members and other career federal executives. Founded in 1980, SEA’s goals are: to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and productivity of the federal government; to advance the professionalism and advocate the interests of career federal executives; and to enhance public recognition of their contributions. The SEA Professional Development League (PDL) is a nonprofit educational organization committed to advancing the professionalism of career federal executives through the sponsorship of training, recognition, and research activities.